BY JONATHAN CROUCH
If you don't want what importers Chrysler describe as a 'Jeep Imitation', then look here first. The implication is clear; there are cheaper used luxury four-wheel drives (though not many) but none that can match 'the genuine article'. Devotees of wimpy Japanese mud-pluggers should look elsewhere; the Jeep Cherokee is as American as Budweiser and as tough as Lee Marvin. And that's fine with British buyers. In its first few years on the UK market, the car took the 4x4 sector by storm. New model interest has waned however, in recent years and as a result, there are now a fair number of high quality used Cherokees on the market.
Models Covered: First generation Cherokee - 1993-1997: (Five-door four-wheel drive Estate: 2.5 [Sport] / 4.0 [Classic, Limited, Limited SE, Grand Limited] / 2.5 turbo diesel [Sport, Limited, Limited SE]) Second generation Cherokee - 1997-to 2001: (Five-door four-wheel drive Estate: 2.5 [Sport] / 4.0 [Sport, Limited,Classic, Orvis] / 2.5 turbo diesel [Sport, Limited, Orvis])
The five-door Cherokee arrived here in January 1993 (though there were some unofficial left-hand drive imports before this). The first vehicles all had the 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine and automatic transmission and were called 'Limited'. A 'Sport' version arrived in March 1993, in combination with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. A 'Limited SE' 4.0-litre model was added to the range at the same time, still with automatic transmission only. In April 1995, the turbo diesel models were released. They had a four-cylinder 2.5-litre engine and were available in 'Sport', 'Limited' or 'Limited SE' trim, all with manual transmission as standard. Don't confuse the Cherokee with its larger brother, the Grand Cherokee - a different model imported from 1996 onwards. In late 1996 and early 1997, sales fell away significantly as the number of original Cherokees imported slowed. The reason was the imminent launch of a new, second-generation Cherokee that appeared in mid 1997. Though it didn't look much different, this model featured a new-look front and rear and a completely revised interior. The engines were the same however. A flagship 'Orvis' variant was introduced with 4.0-litre petrol and 2.5-litre turbo diesel power in early 1999 and the Classic (only with four-litre petrol power) replaced the Limited in October. In 2001 the range was replaced with an all-new model. The latest Cherokee was launched in August 2008.
What You Get
A vehicle that's loaded with equipment and ability (both on and off-road). Most people find the styling attractive too, if a bit angular. The roof is a bit low for back-seat passengers and the boot a little on the small size, but Jeep would steer you in the direction of the bigger Grand Cherokee if these were major annoyances for you.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The turbo diesels need their oil changed far more regularly than the petrol models so check the vehicle's service records to make sure the former owners have done so. The petrol-powered cars have no known problem areas, but like the diesels, a service history is essential in any vehicle that may have had even occasional off-roading. The interiors are, in the main, well assembled, but check that all the 'convenience' features (electric windows, etc) live up to that name. Check the sunroof, door-locks and mirrors for trouble-free operation.
(Based on an M-reg Cherokee 2.5-litre - approx excl VAT) A replacement clutch assembly will be about £140 and the release bearing is an extra £45. Front dampers are about £30 a pair and rears roughly £65. A set of front brakepads will be around £40, a new alternator just under £330 and a starter motor close to £350. A replacement door mirror is about £150 and a radiator £250. a major service is about £400 and a minor one near £150.
On the Road
On the road, the Cherokee isn't really at its best. Like most 4X4's, it's a compromised vehicle which must be equally at home on tarmac as chassis-deep in mud. As such, it does a good job of handling motorway driving, city crawls and backroad bends but the ride is on the bouncy side and body lean typical of most off-roaders. Performance is brisk with the 4.0-litre engine, but a little leisurely with the four-cylinder petrol or diesel motors.
As an all-rounder, the Cherokee makes a good effort at what is a difficult task - driving like a car yet having the ability to tackle forest trails and muddy hills should the owner's mood take them. It's usefully smaller than a Land Rover Discovery, yet off-road, ultimately less able. That won't matter too much to most of us, so if you like your all-road vehicles American-style, the Cherokee could be for you.